Beer On My Shirt: Coffee, Beer, and Bitter Monk

J. R. Shirt, October 17, 2013

This past week I read an article by Mikael Cho “Coffee vs. Beer: Which makes you more creative?” The title peaked my interest as the creative process for Beer On My Shirt is largely based on alternating over-consumption of each of these drinks. Also, as you may or may not have noticed, my creative process has hit a bit of a roadblock, and after reading the title I wondered if perhaps I was doing something wrong.

Could my beer to coffee ratios be off? Was I somehow drinking things out of order? Should I just be drinking water and eating kale chips?

Essentially, or least what I absorbed from the article, was that beer is a beverage for big ideas and that coffee was the beverage for forging that big idea into a sword to behead your demons of un-productivity. Unfortunately, as the article's information essentially mirrors the Beer On My Shirt process, it only reinforced that my methodology was sound. And yet my output was still lacking.

While the confirmation of the process was slightly invigorating, it only led to more questions about myself, my ideas, and my ability to project my silly world onto paper. In an effort to overcome my creative blockage, I decided to revisit some of my failed beer ideas and there subsequent coffee-enhanced executions. Also, I feel it will provide a nice set of concrete examples for the Coffee vs. Beer creativity discussion and hopefully add something to the intellectual conversation.

Generally, the ideas that come to me while drinking beer are recorded by typing them into my phone. I did, for a brief period, record them as voice memos, but that required me to say some extremely ridiculous things out loud at extremely inappropriate times. Much like the chameleon, I am quick to adapt. Also (sidenote), like the chameleon I am quick to change colors if I've had too much to drink. I blame this on a blood sugar issue as it has mostly been corrected with diet.

Little known science fact: Chameleons are the drunks of the lizard world. Watch a video of a chameleon trying to walk on a flat surface in a straight line – it's like watching a DUI stop on an episode of COPS.

(I would really like to expand on this scenario at some point – an episode of COPS where they pull over a drunk driver and it turns out to be a giant chameleon driving the car. They ask the lizard to step out of the car and do a field sobriety test. The chameleon just stares at the police officer from the driver's seat with its big weird pinhole eye mounds moving independently of one another and says absolutely nothing. I feel like there are a lot of ways it could go and that they would all be fantastic. Maybe at some point the chameleon says he wants to call his lawyer. I'm pretty sure I just invented a whole new genre of COPS fan fiction.)

Now, some ideas do come to me while drinking coffee, and those too are recorded by typing them into my phone. Typically, they are usually around 2,500 words long. The “beer ideas” are lucky to be one complete sentence. However, sticking to the beer-coffee optimization plan outlined in Mikael Cho's article, I will focus on several ideas fathered by beer and then the subsequent caffeinated attempts to foster those ideas into actual BeerGraphs content.

It's like raising a child. It really is. I know. Because I have one.

So without further ado, I present you with Beer Idea #1, as found in my phone last Wednesday:

“I think I accidentally put a crumb of cheese in my asshole.”

Go ahead. Take a minute. Think about that. Process it. Because it's real.

The next day, while caffeinated, I attempted to follow through on the above punchline by outlining, in a highly stylized fashion, the events that led to me thinking I may have accidentally placed cheese crumbs inside my body.

Imagine the frustration a person might feel during a situation where they are wondering whether the burning sensation that they're experiencing in their sphinctal region is related to a minor medical situation or to cheese or to some strange combination of both.

Now imagine the frustration of trying write about it...

There I was, minding my own business, watching the Pittsburgh Pirates Wild Card Playoff game. The Wife was upstairs sending emails to TBS about airing prime time baseball on a week night in which she expected to get her fix of Big Bang Theory. The child was asleep. It was all really quite blissful.

And then I remembered.

I remembered that there was a FanGraphs/BeerGraphs meet up happening out on the West Coast. Practically half of my Twitter feed was there. They were all there drinking better beer than me, making snarky, yet insightful comments about the game while I, due to a weird radio delay, was stuck listening to maybe the worst baseball commentary ever on TBS. I shouted upstairs for Wife to mention that in her email.

As my jealousy and loneliness grew, I headed to the kitchen to sad eat. I stared into the fridge and looked for something great, something unique, something that would inspire envy. And despair.

I found fancy aged sharp cheddar.

I thought, “CheeseGraphs,” and proceeded to eat what could be described as too much cheese for a civilized person. If I were a dog, it would have killed me.

“Is cheese bad for dogs, J. R.?”

“No, not really, it is just that I ate THAT MUCH cheese.”

“You know so much.”


At some point, in an effort to experience the game in a way that people at the West Coast meet-up could not, I took off my pants and watched the last few innings in what Wife refers to as “not my best briefs.” And whatever, I was alone and my hemorrhoid itched. So I scratched it. And I, well, I really got after it – with only a thin layer of “not my best briefs” between my fingertips and yeah, you get the idea.

Equal parts satisfaction and disgust, and fearing E. coli, I got up to wash my hands. As I arrived at the sink, I looked down to see my fingers were covered in cheddar cheese crumbs.

I had not realized the cheese was so crumbly.

It was around this time that I felt a slow burn developing somewhere behind me. I washed my hands and wondered if it was possible for a burning sensation to have a “dairy feel” to it or if it was all in my head. Maybe I didn't itch cheese crumbs into my asshole. Maybe I just have a strange lactose paranoia.

I mean what am I really going to do about it at this point anyway. I would like make a crude joke like something cheese something “Let's make nachos!”... but I'm really struggling to find an entry point.

Beer Idea #2:

“When am I going to reach an age where my skin no longer feels like it is covered in a thin layer of olive oil. At what age will these pimples stop?”

I said this one out loud, around a backyard bonfire, to several friends.

This idea, on caffeine during some down time at work, turned into me with my eyes gently closed, gliding my fingertips over every piece of my face as if I worked as proof reader in a braille publishing house.

No actual writing took place.

Beer Idea #3:

“This beer label keeps saying more great stuff. I wonder what other great stuff it could say.”

This one was actually about a beer – Anchorage Brewing's Bitter Monk (3.79 BAR, ranking 4th on the leader boards for the style). The bottle caught my eye at the beer store one afternoon after Anchorage got a mention in a Friday BeerGraphs Chat a few weeks back. The most prominent piece of information on the bottle, after the brewery and beer name, informed me I was looking at a Belgian-Style Double IPA. “I like that,” I said to myself.

The next line of text, “WITH BRETTANOMYCES” peaked my interest quite a bit more. I saw the 100 IBUs toward the bottom of the bottle but played coy.

The price was a bit high, I think $15, maybe as high as $19, so I was still on the fence. And then I saw along the bottom of the bottle “Ale aged in French Oak Chardonnay Barrels.” Now convinced that I would purchase it, I turned the bottle in my hands expecting more fantastical information. Days later, all coffee-ed up, I reflected back on this moment and wondered what other wonderful things may have been used to brew this beer. What else was printed on this bottle that perhaps I had overlooked?

Could Sasquatches brew beer? Did they brew this one? Somewhere, in small print, did this bottle say “brewed by Sasquatches”?

“Proven to clear up the bad skin of 30-somethings.”

Was it possible to brew a beer with the shiny panties of twenty-something graduate assistants that wear dark bras under white blouses and laugh at your jokes? Was this beer brewed in such a ground breaking manner?

I drank it out of my IPA glass first, seen in the picture above, and it was downright confusing. So much was going on with Citra hop notes, the chardonnay complexities, and the mixture of the Belgian yeast and Brett funk. All the lines kept blurring in different ways with each sip and the finish lingered with a tartness, then a sweetness, and then a dryness all while being quite bitter, but almost as an afterthought. And once all that dissipated, there was a hot, earthy breath left behind by the Brett. It was quite enjoyable, but in a truly perplexing manner.

When I went back for a second glass, I noticed there was one piece of information I had neglected to notice the first 87 times I looked at the bottle– it had a glass recommendation. You may be able to see it on the edge of the bottle in the picture above, but it had a pint glass with an X over it and a tulip glass below that. So for my second glass, I figured I would see what the beer was like out of the tulip. And, wow, what a different beer. Out of the tulip, the hops were so much more forward and more dank. The complexities that made my head spin from the IPA glass were greatly subdued here, with characteristics inherited from the Chardonnay barrels definitely taking a backseat to the hops and the yeasts. It was still very good, and perhaps even more enjoyable in that it was just easier to comprehend.

The overall experience and comparison from the two different glasses was extremely interesting, adding to the mystique of the Speigelau IPA glass and its effects on the flavor profile of a beer.

Bitter Monk, Anchorage Brewing Co.  4.125/5

appearance = 4.5/5

Pour a yellow-orange color with about an inch airy, white head. Tiny bubbles carried a thin, but decent, layer of head floating on top for the entire time that there was beer in the glass.

smell = 4/5

The aroma is mostly brett with a hint of the oak and Chardonnay. Out of the tulip, a dank hop aroma was more present and the smell of Chardonnay was much more faint.

taste = 4/5

Really just a lot happening on the palate, especially out of the IPA glass. Very stimulating to say the least. In the IPA glass, it was difficult to separate the hop flavors from the Brett, the Belgian Yeast, and the Chardonnay, making for a very unique bitterness that was dry, sweet, citrus, and funk depending on the moment. A very bright tasting beer. Out of the tulip, the hop flavors were easier to separate and appreciate against the others. The aspects of the taste definitely seemed to be more delineated, or lined up in a row, when drinking from the tulip.

mouthfeel = 4.5/5

Great full feel of prickly, tiny bubbles that added a lot to the experience.

overall = 4.25/5

It was very good, especially compared to other Belgian IPAs I've had like A Little Sumpin Wild Ale and Raging Bitch, but for the price it will probably be awhile until I have it again.

J. R. Shirt is available on Twitter @beeronmyshirt to help you with all cheese related problems.